Archive for the ‘Poland’ Category

Out of Russia again

29 August 2018

Kaliningrad to Frombork, Poland

Kaliningrad is proud of its past as Konigsberg, based on the historical photos on display, but it seems that little of this remains after two World Wars. It is now a busy city with lots of traffic, trolley buses, trams, Sovietsky apartments and statues and a few grand houses and buildings from more prosperous times. We managed our navigation by retreating to the footpath as much as possible.

On the way to Kaliningrad South station we stopped at a mobile phone shop where Ian bought a phone for under $100 to replace his recently deceased one. Then we noticed and followed the red line that had been painted on the footpath to guide World Cup visitors from the station to the FanFest.

A large statue in the Soviet style, presumably of Kalinin but not identified, dominates the approach to the station. As at many Russian train stations, this one requires the scanning of all luggage at the entry, so we unloaded everything and went in, to discover that there are only two trains each day to Mamonovo near the Polish border. We had missed the first and the second one was not until mid-afternoon. Timetables for local trains are not available online. Therefore we decided to cycle all the way.

Riding out of Kaliningrad was not too bad. We stayed on the footpath where possible and once out of the city fringe the traffic gradually decreased, the countryside became more scenic and the weather improved.

We reached the border at about 1pm, cruised through fairly quickly and were greeted in Poland by three stork nests, of which we saw none in Kaliningrad.

Now we are in Frombork, a small town on the Vistula Lagoon with a massive cathedral and memorials to Copernicus who lived here.

The tiles on the cathedral roof are being replaced – wonder who pays for that? Delicious dinner of fish and fried potatoes.

Rain and sun on the way to Slovakia

16 July 2012

The train to Nowy Targ took about 3 hours and we disembarked into steady rain. Therefore an immediate retreat into a cafe was needed.

This is a domestic tourist region with walking and cycling tracks for summer recreation and skiing in winter. As we cycled out of town on a too busy road, we saw the Tour de Pologne convoy of cars and buses heading towards Krakow where the final stage will take place this afternoon. There were also dozens of storks feeding in the fields, although only one nest that we could see.

Our route took us through charming mountain villages with houses built of river stones, colourful flowers and plenty of BVM shrines. We have seen scything in action twice today. I spotted a young man using a sickle last week in Czech Republic but thought his technique was poor.

By lunchtime the rain had stopped and sun had reappeared. We took a dirt road named after St Rosalia, easily the worst track we have encountered so far, muddy, waterlogged and much of it unrideable. Don’t ask me to explain that!

The countryside around here is beautiful, green and yellow fields, wild flowers, forests and mountain peaks. We are on the Dunajec River which forms the border between Poland and Slovakia, with the Pieniny National Park on the Polish side.

The river is popular for rafting and canoeing, particularly through the steep sided gorge. We intend to ride through on the cycle path tomorrow morning.

Nowa Huta

15 July 2012

Early bike ride at 6.30 to see the city in the quiet. There were still a few people about finishing off their big night. We rode along the Vistula bike path to the Schindler factory, now a museum. This is one of the top tourist places here, along with Kasimierz (the Jewish Quarter) and day trips to Auschwitz and the salt mines.

We had heard about Nowa Huta from a brochure offering cult communism tours, so we decided to do our own tour. NH is an urban development on the eastern fringes of Krakow, a creation of the communist era in Poland. It is renowned for its architecture and history as a working class area and Solidarity stronghold, built to express socialist ideals.

We found it interesting and pleasant – clean, tree-lined streets with plenty of parks; housing blocks mainly grey but in reasonably good condition and with shaded gardens all around; geraniums in window boxes; trams providing transport to the city and to the industrial area. It’s somewhat reminiscent of Canberra – must be something to do with 20th Century urban design.

There have been some changes since the end of communism – the large statue of Lenin is gone (bet they wish they’d kept it now!), churches have been built and some street names changed (eg Ronald Reagan Square and John Paul II Avenue). No Trabants in sight but we did have coffee at Cafe Styl which still has a 1970s decor inside.

Later in Market Square we watched an accomplished button accordion trio play Vivaldi Summer and Bach Toccata in D minor.

Tomorrow we take the train to Nowy Targ on the way to Slovakia.

Nowa Huta

Rynek Główny

14 July 2012

Krakow is as full of tourists as Prague. In Kasimierz, the Jewish quarter, they go around in electric wagons while a recorded commentary is broadcast in the required language. The tourists lean out with their cameras to take photos or film the famous historical places and their feet never have to touch the ground.

Entering Rynek Główny, Main Market Square of Krakow, is pretty incredible. It is huge, full of thousands of people without feeling crowded, cafes all around, and dominated by the enormous St Mary’s Basilica. We had Polish beer and icecream and watched rap dancers while waiting for the trumpeter to play the Hejnał mariacki from the Basilica tower – this occurs every hour according to Polish legend.

On our way back we saw an outdoor photographic exhibition of Pope John Paul II. One photo showed Rynek Główny completely packed with people who gathered there for a Mass a few days after the attempted assassination of the Pope in 1981 – that was a massive (!) crowd.

After dinner we went to a concert at the church of St Peter and St Paul, a string quartet with flute and trumpet soloists playing popular classics – Vivaldi, Mozart, Torelli, Chopin, Debussy.


14 July 2012

It took awhile to extricate ourselves from Bielsko Biala but we eventually did so.

At lunchtime we arrived in Kety, a small town equipped with square and fountain that came in handy for mending a puncture. Here we saw signs to Oswiecim (Auschwitz) and tour buses going in that direction. Also a lot of utility cycling, unlike in Cz where recreational cycling is popular but you don’t see people cycling to the shops. When you see elderly women on bikes with a shopping bag on the handle bars and bikes parked unlocked on the street, that shows it’s part of daily life.

In Cz it is common to see roadside crucifixes; in Poland, shrines to the Virgin Mary and, less frequently, memorials to the Polish Pope who was born in this region.

Light rain fell for most of the afternoon, not enough to get drenched. We had a few geographical adventures – dirt road to river where we were expecting a crossing but there was none, several km in wrong direction along horrid road with many trucks and no shoulder. We saw our first east European storks – three of them in a precariously located nest on top of a power pole. Then we battled our way into Krakow, grey sky, industrial landscape, traffic jam of vehicles heading out of the city, road works, rain getting heavier.

When we pass people we usually give a wave and a smile, but have found that these are often returned with a blank look or no eye contact at all. That’s a bit disconcerting. So it was nice to be helped by a young man on Dutch style bike who confirmed we were on the right track in the suburbs of Krakow.

We went to the address of our warmshowers host on the northern edge of the city, found no-one home, so retreated to the centre and Hotel Europejski.

Lost in Poland

12 July 2012

It takes the TdF riders about two hours to ride 80km. It took us about 10 hours today. Here’s why:

  • We had to find breakfast (Havirov)
  • We have to stop frequently for photographic purposes
  • We have to stop for a drink
  • We have to go on a dirt track that is muddy with steep bits (this is recommended by Garmin, our GPS, who is instructed to avoid busy roads)
  • As first breakfast wasn’t very good we have to stop for second breakfast (Ciesyn on Polish border)
  • Tour de Pologne bike race is coming through and we have to observe the setup
  • We change countries – Poland did not announce itself but we could tell
  • We have to go into tourist office to get a map but they don’t have any that are useful to us
  • We have to mend a puncture
  • We take a 4km long cut to avoid 2km of busy road
  • Garmin batteries have to be replaced
  • We have to refill water bottles
  • We have to get Polish zlotys
  • We try to find a restaurant that actually serves food so we can have lunch
  • We take a road according to Garmin and end up riding up a 20% gradient and the road turns to dirt with big stones, so we abandon that and go back
  • We wrangle with Garmin and try to find a better route
  • Ian buys a strawberry milk, but it turns out to be 1 litre of cream (smetana) – our second beverage error as we both swigged on neat cordial the other day, thinking it was fruit juice
  • We resign ourselves to the fact that we are not ending up where we intended and book into luxury hotel – nothing else available
  • Total distance 84km, altitude gained over 1000m

Ostrava – Bielsko-Biala by ianwroberts at Garmin Connect – Details.